Bishop’s charter marks 20 years, church desires hope and healing

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
This year in the Catholic Church marks the 20th anniversary of the Dallas Charter, when the American Catholic Bishops through the charter document and its essential norms “promised to protect and pledged to heal,” committing the church to safe environments for our children, young people and their families.
Because of our sins and crimes, justly, as an organization, the church has been in the crucible, and the purification continues. Yet, the experience of the past twenty years has shown that an organization’s culture can be transformed when best practices are put in place and all in the organization are required to abide by them. In the church, this includes all the ordained, professed and baptized who work with children.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

Over the past twenty years new allegations and actual proven cases of abuse are far and few between. Even one case is one too many, but we have learned how to protect in our church programs and gatherings. Moreover, the pledge to heal comes from the heart of Jesus Christ because we are his body, far more than an organization, who hunger and thirst for healing and peace for all who have been so unjustly harmed by wolves in sheep’s clothing. This Gospel imperative must be at the center of all that the church does on the road back to the abundant life Jesus promised to all believers.

For all in the church and in the world who are steadfast in their love for children’s safety and flourishing, we can rejoice in the recent declaration of the United Nations.

On Nov. 10, 2022, the General Assembly declared Nov. 18 as the World Day for the Prevention of, and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence. The resolution, which was sponsored by Sierra Leone and Nigeria and co-sponsored by more than 120 countries, was adopted by consensus and a bang of the gavel by the assembly’s acting president, which was greeted with loud applause. Following the action, H.E., Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, Permanent Observer of the Holy See United Nations, New York addressed the Assembly expressing appreciation for the UN’s action, and the full support of the Vatican State for the newly adopted World Day.

Over 50 individuals including leaders of prominent child welfare and advocacy organizations, and survivors of child sexual abuse (CSA), including several who experienced abuse by clergy, joined H.E. Fatima Maada Bio, the First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone, a survivor of child marriage, as she addressed the General Assembly urging action. “Child sexual abuse is a global public health crisis. We must acknowledge this problem, and take every necessary action to protect our children, especially our girls, from this tragic human condition.” Her eloquent, impassioned speech was greeted with a round of applause, and cheers from survivors in the gallery.

Mark Joseph Williams, an abuse survivor, speaks during a Nov. 15, 2022, session of the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

“Child sexual abuse is one of the greatest violations to human dignity, one can suffer,” said H.E. Ambassador Alhaji Fanday Turay. “The World Day for the Prevention of, and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence is a critical step in bringing institutional recognition to this horrific childhood trauma. Too many victims of child sexual abuse are suffering in shame and silence. Many live anguished lives. By adopting this Resolution, we can provide a platform for all nations and civil society to mobilize and take actions to protect children from this tragedy.”

“We promoted the World Day to increase awareness of the actions all governments can take to prevent abuse and bring healing to survivors,” said Dr. Jennifer Wortham, a researcher at Harvard who founded the Global Collaborative, the survivor led network that led the international advocacy campaign to launch the world day. Wortham’s brothers are clergy abuse survivors, and Wortham shared that they have struggled with the effects of their abuse for their entire lives. “The World Day will help my brothers and all survivors of child sexual violence to know that the world cares about them, that they matter, that what they experienced was unjust, and that healing is possible,” said Wortham.

Finally, the world has spoken, and this is a victory for us all,” said Mark Williams, clergy abuse survivor, and advisor to the Archdiocese of Newark. “This day has been extraordinary, I am filled with awe, and peace.” At the Bishop’s recent meeting in Baltimore, Williams addressed the assembled body along with Cardinal Joseph Tobin, his Archbishop of Newark, N.J. to encourage the bishops that the Lord can make a way where there is no way. Healing, hope, and a new dawn are God’s desire for all in the church, especially the victims of sexual abuse.

Williams and Cardinal Tobin’s witness and friendship from the center of the church, the United Nations declaration, and a growing world-wide commitment to human flourishing on behalf of children and young people make this Thanksgiving an extra special day of gratitude in our nation and in our world.

Crisol y Purificación Continua

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

Este año en la Iglesia Católica se marca el vigésimo aniversario de la Carta de Dallas, cuando los obispos católicos estadounidenses a través de éste documento y sus normas esenciales “prometieron proteger y se comprometieron a sanar,” y a la vez comprometiendo a la iglesia a crear entornos seguros para nuestros niños, jóvenes y sus familias.

Debido a nuestros pecados y crímenes, justamente, como organización, la iglesia ha estado en el crisol y la purificación continúa.

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

Sin embargo, la experiencia de los últimos veinte años ha demostrado que la cultura de una organización se puede transformar cuando se implementan las mejores prácticas y se requiere que todos en la organización las cumplan.
En la iglesia, esto incluye a todos los ordenados, profesos y bautizados que trabajan con niños.

En los últimos veinte años, las nuevas denuncias y los casos reales probados de abuso son muy pocos. Incluso un caso es demasiado, pero hemos aprendido a proteger a través de los programas y reuniones de nuestra iglesia.

El compromiso de sanar, además, viene del corazón de Jesucristo porque somos su cuerpo, mucho más que una organización, que tenemos hambre y sed de sanidad y paz para todos los que han sido tan injustamente dañados por lobos disfrazados de ovejas.

Este imperativo evangélico debe estar en el centro de todo lo que la iglesia hace en el camino de regreso a la vida abundante que Jesús prometió a todos los creyentes.

Para todos en la iglesia y en el mundo que son firmes en su amor por la seguridad y el florecimiento de los niños, podemos regocijarnos en la reciente declaración de las Naciones Unidas.

El 10 de noviembre de 2022, la Asamblea General declaró el 18 de noviembre como el Día Mundial para la Prevención y la Sanación de la Explotación, el Abuso y la Violencia Sexual Infantil.

La resolución, que fue patrocinada por Sierra Leona y Nigeria y copatrocinada por más de 120 países, fue adoptada por consenso y un golpe de martillo por parte del presidente interino de la asamblea, que fue recibido con fuertes aplausos.

Después de la acción, S.E., el Arzobispo Gabriele Giordano Caccia, Observador Permanente de la Santa Sede ante las Naciones Unidas, Nueva York, se dirigió a la Asamblea expresando su agradecimiento por la acción de la ONU y el pleno apoyo del Estado del Vaticano para el Día Mundial recientemente adoptado.
Más de 50 personas, incluidos líderes de destacadas organizaciones de defensa y bienestar infantil, y sobrevivientes de abuso sexual infantil (CSA), incluidos varios que sufrieron abuso por parte del clero, se unieron a S.E. Fatima Maada Bio, la primera dama de la República de Sierra Leona, sobreviviente del matrimonio infantil, mientras se dirigía a la Asamblea General instando a la acción.

“El abuso sexual infantil es una crisis mundial de salud pública. Debemos reconocer este problema y tomar todas las medidas necesarias para proteger a nuestros niños, especialmente a nuestras niñas, de esta trágica condición humana”. Su discurso elocuente y apasionado fue recibido con una ronda de aplausos y vítores de los sobrevivientes en la galería.

“El abuso sexual infantil es una de las mayores violaciones a la dignidad humana que uno puede sufrir”, dijo S.E. Embajador Alhaji Fanday Turay.

“El Día Mundial para la Prevención y la Sanación de la Explotación, el Abuso y la Violencia Sexual Infantil es un paso fundamental para lograr el reconocimiento institucional de este horrible trauma infantil.
Demasiadas víctimas de abuso sexual infantil sufren vergüenza y silencio. Muchos viven vidas angustiadas. Al adoptar esta Resolución, podemos proporcionar una plataforma para que todas las naciones y la sociedad civil se movilicen y tomen medidas para proteger a los niños de esta tragedia.”

“Promovimos el Día Mundial para aumentar la conciencia sobre las acciones que todos los gobiernos pueden tomar para prevenir el abuso y brindar curación a los sobrevivientes,” dijo la Dra. Jennifer Wortham, investigadora de Harvard que fundó Global Collaborative, la red dirigida por sobrevivientes que dirigió la campaña internacional de promoción para lanzar el día mundial.

Los hermanos de Wortham son sobrevivientes del abuso del clero y Wortham compartió que han luchado con los efectos de su abuso durante toda su vida. “El Día Mundial ayudará a mis hermanos y a todos los sobrevivientes de violencia sexual infantil a saber que el mundo se preocupa por ellos, que son importantes, que lo que experimentaron fue injusto y que la curación es posible,” dijo Wortham.

Finalmente, el mundo ha hablado, y esta es una victoria para todos nosotros”, dijo Mark Williams, sobreviviente de abusos del clero y asesor de la Arquidiócesis de Newark. “Este día ha sido extraordinario, estoy lleno de asombro y paz”.

En la reciente reunión del obispo en Baltimore, el Sr. Williams se dirigió al cuerpo reunido junto con el cardenal Joseph Tobin, su arzobispo de Newark, Nueva Jersey, para alentar a los obispos a que el Señor puede abrir camino donde no hay camino.

Sanidad, esperanza y un nuevo amanecer son los deseos de Dios para todos en la iglesia, especialmente para las víctimas de abuso sexual.

El testimonio y la amistad de Williams y el Cardenal Tobin desde el centro de la iglesia, la declaración de las Naciones Unidas y un creciente compromiso mundial con el florecimiento humano en nombre de los niños y jóvenes hacen de este Día de Acción de Gracias un día de gratitud extra especial en nuestra nación y en nuestro mundo.

Light of the World draws us out of darkness

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now. What we shall later be has not yet been revealed. However, we do know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he really is. Everyone who has this hope in him keeps himself pure, just as he is pure.” (1John 3:2-3)

The Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed at the beginning of November carry us to the threshold of eternal life which we announce at every Mass in the Nicene Creed on the Lord’s Day. “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

Throughout this month each Gospel passage from St. Luke inspires us to see beyond this world to our destiny in heaven. Last Sunday the Sadducees who believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but did not believe in life after death, presented Jesus with a situation that was an attempt to trip him up.

Using the Mosaic Law that required a brother to marry his deceased brother’s widow if they did not have children, they cooked up a ridiculous scenario in which seven brothers married the woman. “Whose wife will she be at the resurrection since she married all seven,”(Luke 20:33) they asked the Lord, likely smirking, thinking they had checkmate.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

The Lord’s response was not only brilliant, but it was also an invitation to the Sadducees to enlarge their understanding of who God is and who we are as God’s children. “Those who are judged worthy of taking part in the age to come and the resurrection of the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage… They are like angels, and they are the children of God, because they are the children of the resurrection. That the dead are raised Moses himself showed in the account about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for in his sight all are alive.” (Luke 20:35-38)

On this weekend ahead, Jesus assures his disciples that in the midst of worldly upheavals and suffering, “by your perseverance you will secure your lives.” (Luke 21:19)

On the Solemnity of Christ the King, the final Sunday of the church year, the promise of eternal life unfolds from the Cross when Jesus responds to the repentant thief. “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

In the Gospel of Luke these are the final words of Jesus earthly existence spoken to another person. All that remained was the earth-shattering event of the resurrection, fulfilling the Lord’s words spoken to Martha on the occasion of her brother Lazarus’ death. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha, answered, “Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 11:25-27)

NATCHEZ – The Basilica of St. Mary held the faith community’s traditional All Soul’s Day cemetery procession Sunday, Nov. 6 at the Natchez Cemetery. Father Robert Johnson, associate pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Alexandria, La., led the procession. The procession included the Rite for a Cemetery Procession and parishioners including mothers and fathers with young children recited the Sorrowful Mysteries as they slowly walked from Old Catholic Plot 1 to Catholic Hill in the back of the cemetery property. Father Johnson reminded all to continue to pray for those who have passed. “May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen,” he said concluding ceremonies. (Photo by Linda Reeves)

Do you believe this? How blessed is the person who can say yes to the Lord with Martha’s conviction. This is the first work that please God. (John 6:29)

During November we have a unique perspective to consider the promise of eternal life through Jesus words and actions. “Those who are judged worthy take part in the resurrection of the dead are his words.”

Was the unrepentant thief left behind, judged unworthy? We are God’s children now, but do we keep ourselves pure as God is pure?

Do our choices have sufficient gravitas as God’s children? Does our freedom to love, mirror the mind and mercy of the crucified Lord?

These are only a few questions that come to the fore prompted by God’s Word during this month of All Saints and All Souls. Even as the darkness deepens with each passing day, the Light of the World is always drawing us out of darkness into his own marvelous light.

Synod process flows into national Eucharistic Revival

This synod process can flow seamlessly into a Eucharistic Revival because the Mass is where and when the People of God assemble to proclaim and celebrate the ideal of our oneness as the Body of Christ.

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

Over the next three years in each (Arch)diocese in the United States there will be a Eucharistic Revival that will invite Catholics across our nation to deepen our love for the Lord Jesus in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood, the Eucharist, the Holy Mass, Sagrada Misa. A church in solidarity on national and international levels has borne good fruit in the Synod process over the past year. The Holy Spirit has led the Catholic faithful in prayer, dialogue and reflection that resulted in diocesan, regional and national syntheses, a lamp for our feet in very challenging times.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

This synod process can flow seamlessly into a Eucharistic Revival because the Mass is where and when the People of God assemble to proclaim and celebrate the ideal of our oneness as the Body of Christ. We are now in the diocesan phase of the process which begins this weekend at St. Joseph in Gluckstadt with a Eucharistic Congress.

These congresses are held periodically in order to revive our love for the Eucharist, this extraordinary and ordinary way of encountering the crucified and risen Lord. This Congress is a very apt way to formally introduce the diocesan phase of the revival. Recognizing the limitations with distance, yet all are invited to participate for part of the Congress, for most of it, or all of it.

We will gather for several hours on Friday evening, and then again on Saturday morning, culminating with Mass at 11:30 a.m. We encourages parishes to mark this occasion in their own churches to be in solidarity with the diocese. On Friday evening and Saturday morning at the Congress there will be ample time for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, personal prayer, the Sacrament of Reconciliation evening and morning presentations on the Eucharist, the Liturgy of the Hours and Benediction. Father Anji Gibson of the Archdiocese of New Orleans will the presenter and homilist. At the core, this time together as well as apart from our normal routines allows the grace of God to stir into flame the gift we received through faith at our baptism. With the image of the flowing waters of Baptism, Jesus’ profound words from his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in the Gospel of St. John (4:1-30) can be applied to help us hear his deep desire for our love in return. “If you recognized the gift of God and who it is that is asking you for something to drink…! (v.10)

Father Ajani Gibson of the Archdiocese of New Orleans places the monstrance on the altar. He is the featured speaker at the Diocese Eucharistic Revival on Oct. 28-29 at St. Joseph Gluckstadt. (Photo courtesy of Father Ajani Gibson)

Earlier this year on June 29, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter Desiderio desideravi. The timing is exquisite from the center of the universal church as a guide for the Eucharistic Revival in our nation. At the outset of the letter Pope Francis explained that his purpose is “to invite and help the whole church to rediscover, to safeguard, and to live the truth and power of the Christian celebration” (of the Eucharist). The Latin phrase Desiderio desideravi recalls the words of Jesus at the beginning of the Last Supper in Luke’s Gospel: “I have eagerly desired to celebrate this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:14)

Pope Francis applies profound pastoral and theological meaning to these words at such a critical time in Jesus’ earthly life. “Every time we go to Mass, the first reason is that we are drawn there by his desire for us,” and every reception of communion of the Body and Blood of Christ was already desired by him in the Last Supper.” (6)

The Eucharist is a gift and mystery; and Jesus Christ is present and alive in that sacred space where we encounter the crucified and risen Lord in his Word, his Body and Blood, in his Body the church assembled, in his Mystical Body, and with his resurrected Body in heaven, our destiny. In other words, there is a lot going on, and we pray that the Holy Spirit will open the eyes of our hearts and minds to “recognize the gift,” and to be the gift to sanctify the world, and to be the Lord’s presence in a world that crises out for his saving and reconciling love.

Proceso del Sínodo fluye a un Renacimiento Eucarístico Nacional

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

Durante los próximos tres años en cada Arquidiócesis de los Estados Unidos, habrá un Renacimiento Eucarístico que invitará a los católicos de toda nuestra nación a profundizar nuestro amor por el Señor Jesús en el Sacramento de su Cuerpo y Sangre, la Eucaristía, la Santa Misa, Sagrada Misa.

Una iglesia solidaria a nivel nacional e internacional ha dado buenos frutos en el proceso del Sínodo durante el año pasado. El Espíritu Santo ha conducido a los fieles católicos en la oración, el diálogo y la reflexión que dieron como resultado síntesis diocesanas, regionales y nacionales, una lámpara para nuestros pies en tiempos muy difíciles.

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

Este proceso del Sínodo puede fluir sin problemas hacia un Renacimiento Eucarístico porque la Misa es el lugar y el momento en que el Pueblo de Dios se reúne para proclamar y celebrar el ideal de nuestra unidad como Cuerpo de Cristo.

Ahora estamos en la fase diocesana del proceso que comienza este fin de semana en St. Joseph en Gluckstadt con un Congreso Eucarístico.

Estos congresos se realizan periódicamente para reavivar nuestro amor por la Eucaristía, esta forma extraordinaria y ordinaria de encontrar al Señor crucificado y resucitado. Este Congreso es una forma muy adecuada de presentar formalmente la fase diocesana del avivamiento.

Reconociendo las limitaciones de la distancia, todos están invitados a participar en parte del Congreso, en la mayor parte o en su totalidad.

Nos reuniremos durante varias horas el viernes por la noche y luego nuevamente el sábado por la mañana, culminando con la Misa a las 11:30. Alentamos a las parroquias a marcar esta ocasión en sus propias iglesias para ser solidarios con la diócesis.

El viernes por la noche y el sábado por la mañana en el Congreso, habrá tiempo suficiente para la adoración del Santísimo Sacramento, la oración personal, la noche del Sacramento de la Reconciliación y presentaciones matutinas sobre la Eucaristía, la Liturgia de las Horas y la Bendición. El padre Anji Gibson de la Arquidiócesis de Nueva Orleans será el presentador y homilista.

En esencia, este tiempo juntos, así como separados de nuestras rutinas normales, permite que la gracia de Dios encienda la llama del don que recibimos por medio de la fe en nuestro bautismo.

Con la imagen de las aguas que fluyen del Bautismo, las profundas palabras de Jesús de su encuentro con la mujer samaritana en el pozo en el Evangelio de San Juan (4:1-30) pueden aplicarse para ayudarnos al escuchar su profundo deseo por nuestro amor a cambio. “¡Si supieras lo que Dios da y quién es el que te está pidiendo agua…! (v.10)

El tiempo es exquisito desde el centro de la iglesia universal como guía para el Avivamiento Eucarístico en nuestra nación. A principios de este año, el 29 de junio, en la solemnidad de los Santos Pedro y Pablo, el Papa Francisco emitió una Carta Apostólica, Desiderio desideravi. Al comienzo de la misiva, el Papa Francisco explicó que su propósito es “invitar y ayudar a toda la Iglesia a redescubrir, salvaguardar y vivir la verdad y el poder de la celebración cristiana” de la Eucaristía.

La frase en latín Desiderio desideravi recuerda las palabras de Jesús al comienzo de la Última Cena en el Evangelio de Lucas: “¡Cuánto he querido celebrar con ustedes esta cena de Pascua antes de mi muerte!”. (Lucas 22:14) El Papa Francisco aplica un profundo significado pastoral y teológico a estas palabras en un momento tan crítico en la vida terrena de Jesús. “Cada vez que vamos a Misa, la primera razón es que nos atrae su deseo por nosotros,” y toda recepción de la comunión del Cuerpo y la Sangre de Cristo ya fue deseada por Él en la Última Cena. (6)

La Eucaristía es don y misterio y Jesucristo se hace presente y vivo en ese espacio sagrado donde encontramos al Señor crucificado y resucitado en su Palabra, su Cuerpo y Sangre, en su Cuerpo la Iglesia reunida, en su Cuerpo Místico, y con su Cuerpo resucitado en el cielo, nuestro destino.

En otras palabras, están sucediendo muchas cosas y oramos para que el Espíritu Santo abra los ojos de nuestros corazones y mentes para “reconocer el don,” ser el don para santificar el mundo y ser la presencia del Señor en un mundo que entra en crisis por su amor salvador y reconciliador.

La voz de la hermana Thea resuena para las generaciones venideras

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
A principios de este mes, el 2 de octubre, se estrenó el documental “Going Home Like a Shooting Star: Thea Bowman’s Journey to Sainthood” para la edificación pública y la inspiración tanto en la iglesia como más allá para todos los cristianos y personas de buena voluntad que anhelan algo mejor, para todos los hijos de Dios. Es una presentación dinámica de casi una hora de duración de la vida de la Hermana Thea Bowman FSPA, los tiempos en los que vivió, su impacto durante su vida y ahora más que nunca su testimonio en el presente y en el futuro profundo.

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

Es un momento de gran alegría para la Diócesis de Jackson, mientras celebramos la vida de esta religiosa cuya historia es un viaje de fe extraordinario. La hermana Thea es oficialmente una Sierva de Dios, la primera etapa para aquellos que son bendecidos para estar en el camino de la canonización en la Iglesia Católica. Esta es una subida empinada que sigue el camino angosto que la iglesia ha establecido para aquellos apartados como discípulos fieles que fueron extraordinarios en su caminar con el Señor durante su tiempo en esta tierra.

El Papa Francisco llama a esa constante abundancia de gracia en la vida de una persona o comunidad “momentos de desbordamiento” cuando la presencia de la providencia de Dios es palpable y el camino por delante se abre con caminos nuevos e inesperados. La oración de apertura en la Misa del pasado fin de semana expresa este deseo para todas nuestras vidas. “Señor Dios, abre nuestros corazones a tu gracia. Que vaya delante de nosotros y esté con nosotros para que siempre estemos atentos a hacer tu voluntad.”

La Hermana Thea tuvo muchos “momentos de desbordamiento” en su vida de 50 años y que ciertamente incluyen su ingreso a la Iglesia Católica a los nueve años, su decisión de formarse como Hermana Franciscana de la Adoración Perpetua en su adolescencia y su perseverancia en su batalla contra la tuberculosis, en formación temprana, pero eso no debilitó su determinación en la búsqueda de su vocación religiosa. Ella, temprano en la vida, “había hecho sus votos al Señor” y su “sí” la empoderó para celebrar y soportar todo lo que se cruzó en su camino, hasta que Dios la llamó a casa tal como una estrella fugaz. El documental celebra la abundancia de la gracia de Dios a lo largo de su vida.

Su voz resonará en las generaciones venideras de muchas y variadas formas. Era una erudita y educadora que exigía la excelencia de sus alumnos, jóvenes y mayores.Era una mujer carismática de alabanza que guiaba a las congregaciones a cantar su alegría al Señor. Tenía un amor profundo por la verdad y su voz profética ha sido escuchada y cobrará aún más fuerza con el tiempo. Amaba a la iglesia y su universalidad y nos desafiaba a ser genuinamente uno: santo, católico y apostólico.

La hermana Thea amaba de todo corazón a su pueblo y su cultura, pero no en contra de la universalidad y diversidad de la Iglesia Católica en nuestro país y el mundo. Ella defendió la dignidad de todos los hijos de Dios porque todos somos parte de la familia de Dios. Ella habría cantado, a pleno pulmón y sin piedad, el Salmo Responsorial del domingo pasado: “El Señor ha revelado a las naciones su poder salvador.”
En los próximos meses, desarrollaremos una guía de estudio para “Regresar a casa como una estrella fugaz” que arrojará más luz sobre la bendecida vida de la hermana Thea. Seguramente el Espíritu Santo abrirá nuestro corazón y nuestra mente a través de la oración, la conversación y la reflexión para seguir, más fielmente al Señor, nuestra llamada universal en el camino de la santidad. En su lápida está su lema: “Lo intenté.”

Que la Hermana Thea, Sierva de Dios, nos inspire, en la singularidad de nuestras vidas y nuestros tiempos, a intentar vivir de la abundante gracia de Dios.

Sister Thea’s voice resounds for generations to come

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

Earlier this month on Oct. 2, the documentary film “Going Home Like a Shooting Star: Thea Bowman’s Journey to Sainthood” was released for public edification and inspiration both in the church and beyond to all Christians and people of goodwill who long for something better for all of God’s children. It is a dynamic nearly hour-long presentation of the life of Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA – the times in which she lived, her impact during her lifetime, and now more than ever her witness in the present and deep into the future.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

It’s a time of great joy for the Diocese of Jackson as we celebrate the life of this religious woman whose story is a remarkable journey of faith. Sister Thea is officially a Servant of God, the first stage for those who are blessed to be on the path to canonization in the Catholic Church. This is a steep climb that follows the narrow road that the church has established for those set apart as faithful disciples who were extraordinary in their walk with the Lord during their time on this earth.

Pope Francis calls such a steady abundance of grace in the life of a person or a community “overflow moments” when the presence of God’s providence is palpable, and the path ahead opens up with new and unexpected ways. The opening prayer at Mass this past weekend expresses this desire for all of our lives. “Lord God, open our hearts to your grace. Let it go before us and be with us that we may always be intent on doing your will.”

Sister Thea had many “overflow moments” in her life of 50 years and certainly would include her entrance into the Catholic Church at age nine, her decision to enter into formation as a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration in her mid-teens, and her perseverance in her battle with tuberculosis early in formation that did not weaken her resolve in pursuit of her religious vocation. She “had made her vows to the Lord” early in life and her “yes” empowered her to celebrate and endure all that crossed her path until God called her home like a shooting star. The documentary celebrates an abundance of God’s grace across her lifespan.

Her voice will resound for generations to come in many and varied ways. She was a scholar and educator who demanded excellence from her students, young and older. She was a charismatic woman of praise who led congregations to sing out their joy to the Lord. She had a deep love for the truth and her prophetic voice has been heard and will gather more strength over time. She loved the church and its universality and she challenged us to be genuinely one, holy, catholic and apostolic.

She wholeheartedly loved her people and culture, but not over and against the universality and diversity of the Catholic Church in our country and in the world. She upheld the dignity of all of God’s children because we are all part of the family of God. She would have sung out full throated and unsparingly last Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm, “the Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.”

In the months ahead we will develop a study guide for “Going Home Like a Shooting Star” that will shed more light on Sister Thea’s blessed life. The Holy Spirit surely will open our hearts and minds through prayer, conversation and reflection to follow the Lord more faithfully on the path to holiness, our universal call. On her gravestone is her motto: “I tried.”

May Sister Thea, Servant of God inspire us to try in the uniqueness of our lives and times to live by God’s abundant grace.

JACKSON – Servant of God, Sister Thea Bowman is the subject of a new documentary “Going Home Like a Shooting Star: Thea Bowman’s Journey to Sainthood.” Pictured, Sister Thea Bowman emphasizes participation to music conference attendees, including the choir of Holy Child Jesus Elementary School, at Murrah High School in November of 1986. (Photo form archives)

Respect life from the beacon of eternal life

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

As Christians, we do have the inside track on the road to eternal life. The Lord Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, and his appearances to the disciples, although not a matter of historical evidence and scientific proof, are breath taking in the scriptures. The wounds, the baked fish and bread, the burning Word, the breaking of the bread, the personal encounters, the forgiveness, the peace, the joy, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church.

It may not be the work of the laboratory, but it is the labor of love through faith in the risen One in a bond that can never be broken, and in an eternal promise that is sealed in the Blood of the Lamb. With St. Paul we press on to the finish line (Phil 3:14) because our citizenship is in heaven. (Phil 3:20) For our eyes are fixed not on what is seen but rather on that which cannot be seen. What is visible is transitory; what is invisible is eternal. (2 Cor 5:18)

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

However, our belief in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting does not place us on the sidelines of this life. Rather, the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead places us squarely in the thick of this world’s joys and sorrows, tragedies and triumphs, as we await the blessed coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, all creation groans and is in labor pains until now…(Romans 8:22), and the Christian groans and grieves with the rest of humanity, but with hope because Jesus is risen. As Jesus said to the woman at the well, the life of God within us is like a spring of water within welling up to eternal life. (John 4:14)

Eternal life has begun and this is the source of our hope in our commitment to respect life across all stages of the human lifespan. With all of the attention of the baseball world on Aaron Judge, a New York Yankee, as he surpasses 60 home runs, the memory surfaced for me of another superstar who packed Yankee stadium back in 1979.

St. John Paul II did not disappoint. Only two years into his apostolic ministry he launched moon shots during his presiding at Mass and preaching that carried far beyond the stadium’s confines into the hearts and minds of Catholics and people of good will around our nation and our world. From the perspective of history, we know that he was a warrior on behalf of life, unborn and throughout the lifespan, and one of his landmark encyclical letters that revealed the depth of his passion, was published around the time of his second apostolic visit to our nation in 1995. In it he warned about a culture of death that was plaguing America.

Back in 1979 with a full stadium as the launching pad, the Holy Father’s words arose from the proclamation of St. Luke’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus. St. John Paul framed his social teaching to follow in the power of evangelization.

“When we Christians make Jesus Christ the center of our feelings and thoughts, we do not turn away from people and their needs. On the contrary, we are caught up in the eternal movement of God’s love that comes to meet us; we are caught up in the movement of the Son, who came among us, who became one of us; we are caught up in the movement of the Holy Spirit, who visits the poor, calms fevered hearts, binds up wounded hearts, warms cold hearts and gives us the fullness of his gifts.”

From this fountain of God’s eternal movement, John Paul II continued: “Catholics of the United States are to walk hand in hand with your fellow citizens of every creed and confession. Unity among you in all such endeavors is essential, under the leadership of your Bishops, for deepening, proclaiming and effectively promoting the truth about human life, the dignity and inalienable rights, the truth such as the church receives it in Revelation and such as she ceaselessly develops it in her social teaching in the light of the Gospel…The parable of the rich man and Lazarus must always be present in our memory; it must form our conscience. Christ demands openness to our brothers and sisters in need — openness from the rich, the affluent, the economically advanced; openness to the poor, the underdeveloped and the disadvantaged.
“All of humanity must think of the parable of the rich man and the beggar. We cannot stand idly by. Nor can we remain indifferent when the rights of the human spirit are trampled upon, when violence is done to the human conscience in matters of truth, religion and cultural creativity.

“We cannot stand idly by, enjoying our own riches and freedom, if, in any place, the Lazarus of the twentieth century stands at our doors. In the light of the parable of Christ, riches and freedom mean a special responsibility. And so, in the name of the solidarity that binds us all together in a common humanity, I again proclaim the dignity of every human person: the rich man and Lazarus are both human beings, both of them equally created in the image and likeness of God, both of them equally redeemed by Christ, at a great price, the price of “the precious blood of Christ.” (1 Pt 1:19)

I close with the following reflection which was a beacon for St. John Paul across his long and fruitful apostolic ministry. He was the missionary disciple without parallel.

“In the cultural wars of the recent past the church has defended the fundamental values of our civilization. We must be proud of those pastors and intellectuals who led those struggles. We must, however, ask ourselves. Is it possible to defend Christian and natural values in the public arena if their root — faith in the living presence of Jesus Christ — has dried up? If the root is rotten the tree will fall; we must first of all seek to strengthen the root. We must become missionary disciples: before preaching the law we must enter the hearts of the people. Only then will we be able to speak with authority, and only then will our people feel that the law is not an external imposition, but the answer to the most profound desire of their heart.” Rocco Buttiglione, Discovering Pope Francis The Splendor of Truth, The Gospel of Life, The Joy of the Gospel!

From one generation to the next you are our hope, O, Lord.

Respetar la vida desde el faro de la vida eterna

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Como cristianos, tenemos la pista interior en el camino a la vida eterna. La resurrección del Señor Jesús de entre los muertos y sus apariciones a los discípulos, aunque no son un asunto de evidencia histórica y prueba científica, son impresionantes en las Escrituras.

Las heridas, el pescado y el pan cocidos, la Palabra ardiente, la fracción del pan, los encuentros personales, el perdón, la paz, la alegría, el don del Espíritu Santo y el nacimiento de la iglesia.
Puede que no sea un trabajo de laboratorio, pero es el trabajo del amor, a través de la fe en el Resucitado, en un vínculo que nunca se puede romper y en una promesa eterna que está sellada en la Sangre del Cordero. Con San Pablo avanzamos hacia la meta (Filipenses 3:14) porque nuestra ciudadanía está en los cielos. (Filipenses 3:20) Porque nuestros ojos no están puestos en lo que se ve, sino en lo que no se ve. Lo visible es transitorio; lo invisible es eterno. (2 Corintios 5:18)

Sin embargo, nuestra creencia en la resurrección del cuerpo y la vida eterna no nos coloca al margen de esta vida. Más bien, el Espíritu Santo que resucitó a Jesús de entre los muertos nos coloca directamente en medio de las alegrías y tristezas, tragedias y triunfos de este mundo, mientras esperamos la bendita venida de nuestro Señor Jesucristo.

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

En efecto, toda la creación gime y tiene dolores de parto hasta ahora… (Romanos 8:22), y el cristiano gime y se aflige con el resto de la humanidad, pero con esperanza porque Jesús ha resucitado. Como dijo Jesús a la mujer junto al pozo, la vida de Dios dentro de nosotros es como un manantial de agua que brota de nuestro interior para vida eterna. (Juan 4:14)

La vida eterna ha comenzado y esta es la fuente de nuestra esperanza en nuestro compromiso de respetar la vida en todas las etapas de la vida humana. Con toda la atención del mundo del béisbol en Aaron Judge, un Yankee de Nueva York, cuando supera los 60 jonrones, me vino a la mente el recuerdo de otra superestrella que llenó el estadio de los Yankees en 1979.

San Juan Pablo II no defraudó. Solo dos años después de su ministerio apostólico, lanzó disparos a la luna durante su presidencia de la Misa y la predicación que llegaron más allá de los límites del estadio a los corazones y las mentes de los católicos y las personas de buena voluntad de nuestra nación y nuestro mundo. Desde la perspectiva de la historia, sabemos que fue un guerrero en nombre de la vida, del no nacido y durante toda su vida y en una de sus históricas cartas encíclicas, que revelaron la profundidad de su pasión, publicada en la época de su segunda visita apostólica. a nuestra nación en 1995, él advertía sobre una cultura de muerte que azotaba a Estados Unidos.

Allá por 1979, con un estadio lleno como plataforma de lanzamiento, las palabras del Santo Padre surgieron de la proclamación de la parábola de San Lucas del hombre rico y Lázaro, San Juan Pablo enmarcó su enseñanza social para seguir el poder de la evangelización.

“Cuando los cristianos hacemos de Jesucristo el centro de nuestros sentimientos y pensamientos, no nos apartamos de las personas y de sus necesidades. Al contrario, estamos atrapados en el movimiento eterno del amor de Dios que sale a nuestro encuentro; estamos atrapados en el movimiento del Hijo, que vino entre nosotros, que se hizo uno de nosotros; estamos atrapados en el movimiento del Espíritu Santo, que visita a los pobres, calma los corazones febriles, venda los corazones heridos, calienta los corazones fríos y nos da la plenitud de sus dones”.

De esta fuente del eterno movimiento de Dios prosiguió Juan Pablo II. “Los católicos de los Estados Unidos deben caminar de la mano con sus conciudadanos de todos los credos y confesiones.

La unidad entre ustedes en todos estos esfuerzos es esencial, bajo el liderazgo de sus Obispos, para profundizar, proclamar y promover eficazmente la verdad sobre la vida humana, la dignidad y los derechos inalienables, la verdad tal como la Iglesia la recibe en la Revelación y tal como la desarrolla incesantemente en su enseñanza social a la luz del Evangelio… La parábola del rico y Lázaro debe estar siempre presente en nuestra memoria; debe formar nuestra conciencia. Cristo exige apertura a nuestros hermanos y hermanas necesitados: apertura de parte de los ricos, los adinerados y los económicamente avanzados; apertura a los pobres, los subdesarrollados y los desfavorecidos.

“Toda la humanidad debe pensar en la parábola del rico y el mendigo. No podemos quedarnos de brazos cruzados. Tampoco podemos permanecer indiferentes cuando se pisotean los derechos del espíritu humano cuando se violenta la conciencia humana en materia de verdad, religión y creatividad cultural.

“No podemos quedarnos de brazos cruzados, disfrutando de nuestras propias riquezas y libertad, si, en algún lugar, el Lázaro del siglo XX se encuentra a nuestras puertas. A la luz de la parábola de Cristo, las riquezas y la libertad significan una responsabilidad especial. Por eso, en nombre de la solidaridad que nos une a todos en la humanidad común, proclamo de nuevo la dignidad de toda persona humana: el rico y Lázaro son ambos seres humanos, creados ambos por igual a imagen y semejanza de Dios, ambos igualmente redimidos por Cristo, a un gran precio, el precio de “la sangre preciosa de Cristo.” (1 Pedro 1:19)

Cierro con la siguiente reflexión que fue un faro para San Juan Pablo II en su largo y fructífero ministerio apostólico. Fue el discípulo misionero sin paralelo.

“En las guerras culturales del pasado reciente, la iglesia ha defendido los valores fundamentales de nuestra civilización. Debemos estar orgullosos de esos pastores e intelectuales que lideraron esas luchas. Sin embargo, debemos preguntarnos. ¿Es posible defender los valores cristianos y naturales en la arena pública si su raíz, la fe en la presencia viva de Jesucristo, se ha secado? Si la raíz está podrida, el árbol caerá; ante todo debemos buscar fortalecer la raíz. Debemos convertirnos en discípulos misioneros: antes de predicar la ley debemos entrar en el corazón de la gente. Solo entonces podremos hablar con autoridad, y solo entonces nuestro pueblo sentirá que la ley no es una imposición externa, sino la respuesta al anhelo más profundo de su corazón.” Rocco Buttiglione, Descubriendo al Papa Francisco El Esplendor de la Verdad, El Evangelio de la Vida, ¡La Alegría del Evangelio!

De generación en generación tú eres nuestra esperanza, oh Señor.

En estas fotos de archivo (izquierda) El Santo papa Juan Pablo II saluda al líder soviético Mijaíl Gorbachov en el Vaticano el 18 de noviembre de 1990. Gorbachov, de 91 años, falleció en Moscú el 30 de agosto de 2022 (CNS photo/Luciano Mellace, Reuters) (centro) Una mujer indígena mexicana sostiene incienso, mientras el Papa San Juan Pablo II observa, durante la beatificación de los mártires indígenas Jacinto de los Ángeles y Juan Bautista en la Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe en la Ciudad de México el 1 de agosto de 2002. Un sacerdote canadiense, que ayudaba a preparar la visita del Papa Francisco a Canadá, dijo que gestos como la ceremonia de la mancha o mirar a las cuatro direcciones para orar, muestran sensibilidad hacia la cultura indígena y no son contrarios a la fe católica. (Foto del CNS de Reuters) (derecha) El Papa San Juan Pablo II intercambia regalos con la Reina Isabel II de Gran Bretaña durante su audiencia privada en el Vaticano el 17 de octubre de 2000. La Reina Isabel falleció el 8 de septiembre de 2022, a la edad de 96 años. (Foto de CNS/Reuters)

Waters of faith

Editor’s note: Below is the homily Bishop Kopacz delivered at the Red Mass celebrated on Sept. 11, 2022, at St. John, Oxford.

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

After the Israelites escaped from the Egyptians through the Red Sea, they quickly realized that they had to have water to survive in the desert. These critical moments are recounted in Exodus, chapters 15 and 17.
First, they came to Marah but could not drink the water because it was bitter, or was it turgid? And so, the Israelites said to Moses, “Got Water?” God directed Moses to throw a tree into the water and it became sweet. Maybe in Jackson we haven’t tried all of our options. Maybe a few good Magnolia trees properly placed in the water treatment facility are the answer. But I digress.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

A few chapters later the Israelites received the gift of the ten commandments – the first of these as the cornerstone. “I am the Lord your God; you shall not have strange gods before me.” Or I will punish the iniquity of the Fathers to the third and fourth generation upon those who hate me but show mercy to the thousandth generation to those who love me and keep my commandments. This is the foundation of the Covenant that God formed with the Israelites through Moses as described in the 20th chapter of Exodus.

For the next 12 chapters, Moses the great lawgiver was given numerous laws that concerned the sabbath and slaves, violence and harm, restitution, social and religious laws. This was a long process, and the people lost patience after Moses was gone too long, and they demanded of his brother, Aaron, that they go down a different road, violating the first commandment.

The Golden Calf was a major setback. Aaron’s inability to remain resolute against the hardheartedness of the Israelites was a costly act of infidelity. But in that critical conversation that we heard in the first reading, Moses interceded on behalf of the Israelites and called upon God to remember his just mercy to the 1000th generation, the source and summit of all the commandments and laws. Moses went on to rebuke his brother Aaron and called him and the Israelites to repentance, and to stand with God. Those who did went on to live and go forward as the chosen people.

The mercy of God at work with the Israelites for numerous generations came to fulfillment in Jesus Christ on the Cross. The words of Jesus in today’s Gospel which stretch our spiritual imagination and our human instincts, can only be grasped from his words and actions from the Cross.

St. Luke, the dear and glorious physician in his former life, knew that the only remedy for humanity’s sick soul and incurable wounds, was God’s merciful love. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” and to the repentant thief, “from this day forward you will be with me in paradise.”

The Cross is universal, offering equal access to God’s just mercy through faith. The Mass is our celebration of the New Covenant in God’s mercy as we recall and proclaim the Lord’s own words; “do this in memory of me.” The sacrament of reconciliation is the extraordinary way that we encounter God’s merciful love in the manner of the prodigal son.

Faithful to the tradition of law developed by the Israelites in the Covenant at Mount Sinai the church understands its extensive Canon Law developed for nearly 2000 years to be in the service of justice arising from God’s abundant mercy in the blood of the New Covenant on the Cross.

As we gather this morning, mindful of and grateful for so many professionals whose lives revolve around the law of the land, know that our church has the utmost respect for all just laws and is committed to be a voice for justice, mercy and peace in our country. We take seriously the First Amendment, our nation’s foundation, in the fullest sense. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

What we do in this church, and in all of our houses of worship, is the soul for all of our ministries in education and advocacy, in health care and social services.

Our prayer is the springboard for our commitment to realize our nation’s ideals of greater liberty and justice for all, based on the dignity of the human person, made in the image and likeness of God with an eternal destiny. The church must be aware of being too political, but we will always be a voice in the public square where we remain steadfast over the free exercise of the fullness of religion. In this very moment the church is advocating on behalf of just laws on behalf of the common good. Examples follow.
In collaboration with others, we have written an extensive letter to the Department of Health and Human Services on pending legislation regarding Access to Health Care:

“Ensuring access to health coverage and health care, and removing barriers to these, is without question a laudable goal. “Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity … [which includes] health care. …” Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2288.

The U.S. Catholic bishops have advocated longstanding moral principles in discerning health care policy: respect for life and dignity, access to all, honoring conscience rights, true affordability, and comprehensive and high quality…

Unfortunately, the proposed regulations go beyond access to care by suggesting that health care providers must provide, and that health plans must cover, procedures that are not medically indicated, may harm rather than heal, and may violate religious and moral convictions. Especially problematic is the suggestion in the preamble that Health and Human Services might be open to imposing requirements with respect to abortion.

Bishops’ Labor Day Statement: “This Labor Day, let us reflect on how we can build a more just economy by promoting the welfare of working families through both charitable works and through advocacy for improved policies such as expanding the Child Tax Credit and passing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Advancing these two policies would have a profound impact on family stability, especially for families who are financially vulnerable. … This is also the first Labor Day since the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade. The ruling is an incredibly significant step towards healing the deep wounds of abortion and protecting all preborn human life. But our aim as Catholics has always been, and remains, to build a society in which abortion is unthinkable. This unique moment necessitates a society and an economy that supports marriages, families, and women; it demands that all of us reach across political aisles and work diligently to reframe social policies in ways that are pro-woman, pro-family, pro-worker and, thus, authentically pro-life.”

Yes, we do have water, the waters of faith and baptism that flowed from the side of the Lord on the Cross. These waters open the fountains of God’s just mercies that renew us to fight the good fight of faith, to finish the race, to keep the faith in this generation and always.